Word from Columbia and Manchester today is that the South Carolina Republican Party has decided to schedule its presidential primary for Jan. 19. (Rob Godfrey, an SCGOP spokesman, would not confirm the date, but sources close to the party said they've been given guidance about the 19th. Update: The State confirms it.)

For days, rumors have been circulating about a secret deal between SC GOP chief Katon Dawson and the New Hampshire Secretary of State, Bill Gardner, wherein Gardner would move his state's primary eight days before South Carolina. Maybe. Gardner told the Manchester Union Leader this morning that he had not spoken with Dawson. (A back room deal would anger almost everyone.)

Some New Hampshire sources are hearing that Gardner intends to hold the primary on either Monday, Jan. 7 or Tuesday, Jan. 8. But Gardner keeps his own council, so no one really knows.

The two will appear together in Concord tomorrow, leading to speculation that Gardner is ready set the sacred New Hampshire primary date as well.

Most likely, Gardner has decided to Dawson's move because it gives him a pretext to move New Hampshire earlier and preserve its first in the nation status. Additionally, a joint South Carolina primary on the 19th might obliterate the influence of the Nevada Democratic caucuses. Gardner can now say, rightfully, that a real primary -- South Carolina's -- and not a measly little caucus -- persuaded him to change the date.

South Carolina Democrats might not move: they've scheduled their primary in South Carolina for Jan. 29.

So -- watch for New Hampshire to potentially schedule its primary on Jan. 11 or earlier. On the DNC's calendar, it's slated for Jan. 22.

The Iowa caucuses may move, too -- they have their own seven day rule about being first.

The SC Dems may move.

The Michigan Dems and GOP may move.

Florida -- the thorn in Dawson's hide -- still has its primaries scheduled for Jan. 29 -- the date of the old SC GOP contest.

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